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Moving in a man’s world

She hustles in a male-dominated industry and is not one bit afraid to get her hands dirty. And by that, we mean full of grease. Say hello to the gorgeous, anything-but-ordinary Tanya van Dyk Nel.

‘If someone gave me a couple of thousand bucks, I wouldn’t go on a shopping spree. I’d buy myself a pallet jack. My friends know that for me a Louis Vuitton handbag is not nearly as attractive as a pallet jack. It makes my life so much easier.’ Wait. What?

Cars and trucks. Parts. Repairs. Sales. Actually anything to do with them is what makes Tanya van Dyk Nel’s heart beat a little faster. And it is that love, along with loads of dedication and heaps of hard work, that made her the successful business owner of her own company, Parts Pavillion.

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‘My father was a senior aeronautical technician. Or in plain English, an aeroplane mechanic. And from a very young age, you would find me around him when he was working. The ultimate treat was when he would take me to visit the technical side at SAA and experience what they were doing there. All this sparked my interest in what we call ‘moving’ ability, whether planes or cars.’

But life took a few turns before Tanya eventually found her feet firmly placed in the automotive industry. Like many, she had no idea what to do after matric. There wasn’t money for university, so she ended up heading off to America as an au pair for five very busy boys.

‘That didn’t last too long. They really have a completely different culture than what I’m used to. After just a few months, I headed back to sunny South Africa, where in the afternoons I had an au pairing job. The children who I was caring for had a mum who was the most inspiring businesswoman. She often prompted me to get an education and something behind my name. My other inspiration and one of the biggest role players in my life is my mother. She taught me and my sister from a young age to never stand back for anyone, to be independent, to make our own money and provide for ourselves.’

Tanya’s first full time job was as a parts sales rep; later she moved over to being a parts coordinator and really gave it her all, learning as much as she could and studying part-time, eventually qualifying in various fields, including a BCom degree in Logistic, Digital Marketing, Imports and Exports and Mobile Adaption. And after 15 years in the corporate world, she felt prepared, academically and experience-wise, for the next step.

Which came once Tanya and husband Renier started a family, and the juggling between work and family became real. With all her years of experience, and huge behind-the-scenes
support from family and friends it made sense for her to start her own company.

And today, that company supplies individuals, businesses, mining companies, fleet owners, transport companies as well as industrial development companies in Africa with automotive spare part requirements for various brands of vehicles, both original and aftermarket … making it a one-stop-shop for all vehicle and truck parts.

Tanya is thriving in what many would argue, a man’s world. But it wasn’t always easy. Despite working hard and bringing in the moola, some men just kept on dismissing her.

‘This is the part I can just laugh about today. I am 1.81 metres tall and blonde. I used to work in a suit with heels every day and loved wearing red lipstick. So it is practically impossible to not notice me, yet I had instances where I would not even be acknowledged in a boardroom or by some of my colleagues.

‘Trust me, this can get really tough – especially if you know you are well equipped for the job. That pushed me to get all my qualifications and adopt an ‘asking’ attitude – if there was something I did not understand, I would politely ask.

‘I used what I call my superwoman relationship powers to gain as much info as I could, and I persevered to build as many relationships as I could along the way. My femininity at the end of the day counted. Respectfulness will you get a long way.’

Although some think she probably runs the admin side of things and sits in the office all day, with strong men doing the hard work, it is completely the opposite. She and two women (talk about girl power!) run a tight ship.

Yes, she does a lot of office work … from working on quotes and handling the invoicing and payments to running the social media. But she also does the loading and off-loading of parts. ‘We recently bought a nice blue pallet jack which I also operate to assist the drivers, tyres engines, tools, clutches with loads of excitement.

‘Some days my hands and clothes are full of grease from carrying parts, and some days I break a nail … Other days I operate the pallet jack with a nice skirt. Oh, I love to dress up. Because when you look good, you have a boost of confidence.’

And confidence she has in spades … with or without a pallet jack!

Tanya’s tips to survive in a man’s world:
1. Power dress – if you look and feel good you will be more confident. Suit up!
2. Always have a humble approach and be professional, warm and friendly.
3. Research – always try and find out more about the person/ company before you actually meet. Also, look at mutual contacts you might have and elaborate on this. It shows your credibility and experience.
4. Network – taking part in team events shows your strength and commitment. And people also get to see your fun side! Don’t be afraid to hit that golf ball even if you fail.
5. Follow up! Do what you committed to do in that last meeting – show them you are on top of your game and persevere by ensuring you are first on people’s minds.


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